50 Fun Things to Do When You're Bored
After months of quarantine, you've probably binged all your usual TV shows, cooked your favorite go-to meals, and spent more time aimlessly staring at your phone than you'd care to admit. To break up what feels like a monotonous blur of days spent cooped up inside the same four walls, check out these 50 creative things to do when you're bored.
1. Memorize the prologue from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) on Sporcle.
After being forced to memorize both Hamlet’s “To be, or not to be” monologue and Marc Antony’s “Friends, Romans, countrymen” speech for my ninth-grade English class, I decided the next natural place to go on my own was Galadriel’s exposition of the Middle-earth’s history from the beginning of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001). The easiest way to do this is on Sporcle, where the prologue is split into Part One and Part Two. Before long, you’ll be performing it aloud in a dramatic imitation of Cate Blanchett’s deep voice as you type. —Ellen Gutoskey, Staff Writer
2. Attempt to recreate a historical dish or a meal from a movie.
If you're getting bored of constantly making your go-to meals, take a break from making pasta and add a pinch of fantasy to your cooking. You can pretend you’ve gone back in time with a historical recipe, or go full fiction and let a cup of Po-Tay-To Onion Soup or a steaming mug of Butterbeer transport you to a more magical place. —Kerry Wolfe, Staff Editor
3. Plan out your dream restaurant.
Dedicate some of the time you're spending indoors to imagining the dream restaurant you plan on opening someday. You’ve got full autonomy over the menu, the décor, the beer taps—even what brand of mints gets top billing in the restrooms. And, of course, you’ve got to have a punny name to go along with it—Penne for Your Thoughts, perhaps? Remember, pizza is too boring for your imagination, so don’t be afraid to pitch your ideal gastropub that serves nothing but artisanal casseroles and mead. —Jay Serafino, Special Projects Editor
4. Watch livestreams of bird feeders on YouTube so you feel like you're actually outside.
Weeks of being cooped up in your house may be making you long for birdsong. To observe nature in the Great Indoors, fire up YouTube and watch livestreams of birds gathering for a nibble at feeders. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology operates feedercams at its headquarters in upstate New York, a backyard in Ontario, and a rainforest in Panama. Many amateur birders have hooked up GoPros to their feeders and are sharing the action with the world. You never know which species will show up. —Kat Long, Science Editor
5. Or, if you have a yard, take up backyard birding/squirreling.
If you’re lucky enough to have a yard, take a break from staring at your screens and look outside. Get familiar with your animal neighbors—who knew squirrels were so playful? You’ll soon get well-acquainted with your usual furry or feathered visitors. Grab a pair of binoculars and a field guide and see how many different creatures you can identify. —K.W.
6. Watch all of Monty Python's Flying Circus.
There are a lot of great shows and movies to binge on Netflix right now. But if you’re looking “for something completely different,” check out Monty Python’s Flying Circus. The legendary British sketch show aired in the late 1960s through the early 1970s, and you may recognize the comedic troupe from their films like Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Flying Circus covers topics ranging from how to defend yourself against fresh fruit to the fish slapping dance. After a few episodes, you’ll be a certified member of the “Ministry of Silly Walks” in no time. —Kristen Richard, Associate Editor
7. Learn how to play "I Saw a Tiger" on the guitar.
Netflix's docuseries Tiger King and the quirks of its larger-than-life subject, Joe Exotic, have been the talk of quarantine. Joe—whose real name is Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage (né Schreibvogel)—had a number of big cats in his backyard zoo, yes. But he also released a whole bunch of country music. He neither wrote nor actually sang the songs, but you can amuse your friends and family by performing them (even if it's only on Zoom). I have done this. It was a hit! The guitar chords for "I Saw A Tiger" can be found here. —Erin McCarthy, Editor-in-Chief
8. Watch the most popular movie from the year you were born.
Babies are adorable, but they don’t exactly make for a rapt moviegoing audience. Really, they have no idea what’s going on. Check out the state of the world when you arrived in it by figuring out the most popular movie the year you were born. (Hint: If it was Lady and the Tramp, you’re probably due for Social Security benefits.) —Jake Rossen, Senior Staff Writer
9. Plan out your dream trip.
Travel may be the last thing on your mind, but just because you can't take off this weekend for a vacation doesn't mean you can't plan one. Use your extra free time to fantasize about your ultimate dream vacation. And because you're doing the research part of trip-planning without making any commitments, you're free to look at flights, hotels, and restaurants outside your price range. Save any photos and links you find in one place and come back to them when you need an escape—or when it's finally time to book a real getaway. —Michelle Debczak, Senior Staff Writer
10. Read a book you loved as a kid.
Just as there are certain smells or sounds that can take us back in time, picking up a book you loved as a kid and reading it through the lens of adulthood can also be a transporting experience. While the 2020 version of you might have trouble believing a portal to a magical world full of friendly fauns and White Witches might be lurking somewhere in the back of your wardrobe, or that a reclusive candymaker might ever want to give you the keys to his chocolate-filled kingdom, the child inside you probably never stopped believing anything was possible. —Jennifer M. Wood, Managing Editor
11. See how long you and your housemate can toss a ball without dropping it.
If you’re looking for an activity to distract you from returning to your fridge for the second or third lunch of the day, this could be it. When Joey and Ross (and later, Chandler and Monica) spend a good 24 hours tossing a ball back and forth in a 1999 episode of Friends, Joey misses a meal for the first time in his life. Just make sure to let all your housemates know there’s a serious competition going on beforehand, lest someone come along and ruin your streak (looking at you, Phoebe Buffay). —E.G.
12. Zoom Karaoke.
If you love karaoke, you might think singing along with a few of your closest friends is off-limits in the time of coronavirus—but you would be wrong. It's not quite the same as booking a private room and belting out some Celine Dion ("It's All Coming Back to Me Now" is my jam), but you can set up a virtual karaoke session over Zoom and the Watch2Gether app; you can find instructions here. A hairbrush mic is encouraged—and maybe, depending on how loud you're singing, a note of apology to your neighbors. —E.M.
13. Go to a random page of a mail-order catalog and order whatever is the cheapest thing listed.
Online ordering has taken a lot of the spontaneity out of shopping. Simulate an impulse buy by browsing an online or print mail-order catalog, opening a random page, and buying the cheapest thing listed. The more useless it is, the more fun you’ll have trying to justify the purchase. —J.R.
14. Make a meal using the items that have been in the back of your pantry/freezer for months.
Being stuck at home is a great excuse to eat the items that have been sitting in your pantry for months—or years. Clear the oldest boxes and cans from your shelves, make sure they're not expired, and use them to make dinner. You can cook with other products in your kitchen, but the final meal has to feature all the ingredients you started with. Think of it as a mini Chopped challenge. If you live with other people, invite them to join the competition (or judge your dish if they're not in the mood to cook). —M.D.
15. Actually clear out your inbox.
We all know that one person who reads emails the minute they arrive in their inbox and immediately deletes unwanted messages. But for the rest of us, there’s probably plenty of unread marketing emails and maybe even a few unopened chain emails from way back when still stuck in virtual purgatory. If you have some free time, clean out all that unopened mail and make room for the messages you actually want to read. —K.R.
16. Transcribe historical documents.
Whether you're a lifelong history enthusiast or simply looking for a way to connect more directly to the people, places, and events that came before 2020, transcribing historical documents is a great way to not only support the cultural institutions that are preserving our history, but to feel like you're a part of it. The Library of Congress is one organization that's always in need of volunteers; in recent years, they've offered the opportunity to transcribe everything from Abraham Lincoln's personal papers to Walt Whitman's poetry to the personal papers of the leaders of the women's suffrage movement, including Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Zooniverse is another great resource for finding projects that need your help. —J.M.W.
17. Experiment with baking chemistry.
Baking can be a great stress-reliever, but it’s also an easy opportunity to conduct chemistry experiments you can eat. You can sub out different ingredients to see the effect they have on your baked goods. For example: baking soda, which is basic, needs an acid to react with. It’s basically a slow-motion version of a science fair volcano that helps your cookies rise. Adding brown sugar to your recipe will therefore lead to a puffier cookie, while subbing it out for white sugar leads to a flatter, more spread-out end product. So go ahead and make that eighth batch of chocolate chip cookies. You know … for science. —Jon Mayer, Senior Video Producer
18. Master one cocktail to make your signature drink whenever you host parties in the future ...
Why be the Jack of all generic mixed drinks when you can specialize in one signature cocktail that everyone remembers? So pick a drink that speaks to you and get muddling, shaking, and pouring until every glass you make is flawless through pure muscle memory. Don’t worry about getting too complex, either—a top-notch martini or Manhattan is as respectable a calling card as any. —J.S.
19. ... Or Invent your own cocktail.
Cocktail hour has had a resurgence during quarantine for a number of reasons. And while we should all be wary of falling into unhealthy habits, now is also a great time to experiment a bit with mixology. Let necessity be the mother of invention. If you’ve got a knob of ginger and some sugar, you’re a few minutes from an infused simple syrup. Use some citrus peel, add a splash of seltzer, and get some herbs involved. There are no rules, and no one’s going to turn down your take on a (please forgive us) quarantini. —J.M.
20. Go down a rabbit hole of weird images from Google Street View.
Named after the nine lenses on Google's car-mounted cameras, every picture on 9-eyes.com has appeared on Google Street View. Artist Jon Rafman sifted through the app to find the most striking, intimate, and bizarre images hidden among otherwise ordinary shots of public places. If you've ever wasted hours browsing Street View, this collection will definitely capture your attention. —M.D.
21. Look up and perfect 10 words you consistently mispronounce or misspell.
Everyone has a handful of words they reliably misspell or mispronounce on a regular basis. (For me, it’s “misspell.”) Take some time to hit the dictionary and practice writing or repeating words that give you problems. —J.R.
22. Scan old family photos and share them with your relatives.
Simultaneously declutter and preserve family memories by scanning your boxes of old photos. You'll be able to correct faded colors or lighten images, if you choose, and share the digital copies with friends and family. And if you don't recognize all the folks at past awkward holiday gatherings, send the picture out to your email list and see if other family members can help with IDs. —K.L.
23. Paint or wallpaper a room.
Even if you don't personally believe in the concept of color psychology, or the idea that color can affect your mood, a change of scenery will do you some good. Especially when you're stuck inside and have spent the past two months staring at that boring eggshell white color that covers every inch of wall space in your home. Spruce up your living space by adding a little—or a lot—of a color you love, whether it's turning your entire kitchen bright orange (which is considered a "happy color") or creating a truly dreamy space by covering the wall behind your bed with cloud-filled wallpaper. —J.M.W.
24. Watch a classic movie from a genre you generally don't like.
Fond of action movies but not horror? Comedies but not foreign films? Try taking a break from the usual and catch a well-regarded movie in a genre you don’t normally like. You might be surprised by what you find. —J.R.
25. Make a point to learn a fun fact each day.
If your Zoom meetings or Google Hangouts are getting a little dull, try spicing them up and impressing your friends with a fun fact. For example, did you know that bats give birth upside down and catch the babies in their wings? To help you get started, check out Mental Floss’s Amazing Fact Generator. —K.R.
26. Learn how to draw one thing really well.
Writing your name in bubble letters or scribbling Rorschach-esque blobs in the margins of your notebook might keep you awake during a meeting, but they don’t carry the same sense of accomplishment as actually drawing something—which can seem a little unattainable for people with no artistic skills to speak of. Make your goal realistic by focusing not on learning how to draw in general, but on learning how to draw one specific thing instead. Here’s a list of tutorials, including one for a cute baby fox and another for a terrifying winged monkey, bared teeth and all. —E.G.
27. Press flowers.
Looking for a creative way to preserve pieces of this unusual spring? Snip your favorite blooms, slip them between two pieces of paper, then wedge them within the pages of a book buried beneath more heavy tomes for a week or two. When the petals get papery, you can frame them, tuck them into the pages of your journal, or paste them onto letters you mail to your loved ones. —K.W.
28. Kill time coming up with “Googlewhacks,” two-word search queries that produce exactly one result.
There are millions of websites on the internet, and very few of them contain information that hasn't been repeated elsewhere. Such pages are the sources of "Googlewhacks"—two-word search queries that produce exactly one hit on Google. The two words must be found in the dictionary, and they can't be typed in quotation marks. After trying every word combination you can think of, finally seeing "1 result" at the top of your search page is way more exciting than it should be. —M.D.
29. Make a stop-motion movie.
Stop-motion is a relatively straightforward way to produce animation, which is otherwise a medium with quite a high barrier to entry. Besides time, all you need is a camera (your phone should work) and a way to keep it stable (a tripod is great, but you can also carefully arrange books, boxes, or rig up any setup that would make the MacGyver proud). You can make characters out of clay, grab your old action figures, or even use simple paper cut-outs. Just take a photo, make a very minor adjustment, and repeat. About 12 photos per second is a good baseline, meaning even a one-minute film will take hours to produce. If anyone questions your new hobby, you can quote Parks and Recreation’s Ben Wyatt: “Do you think a depressed person could make this? No.” —J.M
30. Try to actually beat an old Nintendo game as an adult.
There’s hard, and then there’s “Nintendo hard,” a term given to the blisteringly difficult NES games from the 1980s and ‘90s. And if you were a fan of the original Nintendo during your childhood and are now an adult looking to slay the demons from your past, go revisit titles like Ghosts ‘n Goblins, Gradius, and Zelda II to see if you can best some of the toughest games from the 8-bit era. If you have a Switch, just sign up for Nintendo Switch Online to get all these titles and more right on your console. —J.S.
31. Trace your family tree online.
Ancestry.com is the most comprehensive resource for tracing your family tree online, but its monthly memberships are pricey. If you prefer to hang on to your money, sites like FindMyPast.com and RootsFinder.com offer free-to-access records and user-generated genealogical hints. They're a great place to start before diving into digitized encyclopedias, archival sources, and library collections in search of your past. —K.L.
32. Learn the dance moves to iconic ‘80s and ‘90s music videos.
Were you obsessed with Britney Spears or the Backstreet Boys as a teen? Then use your quarantine to teach yourself a few new (old) moves (I'd suggest the chair dance choreographed by Fatima Robinson that BSB performed in the "As Long As You Love Me" music video). It isn't just a fun way to get active that's also sure to put a smile on your face; it's also a fun party trick for when we're allowed to have parties again. (Pro tip: Old episodes of Making the Video on YouTube will really come in handy here.) —E.M.
33. Learn how to speed-read.
The merits of speed-reading are pretty widely contested, with some people arguing the comprehension you lose by flying through a text neutralizes the benefit of saving time getting to the end. Still, reading even a little faster could make a big difference when it comes to tackling that precariously-tall to-be-read book pile. The Outread app, which trains your brain to pick up the pace by highlighting words or flashing them across your screen, lets you upload your own e-books or choose from classics novels in its built-in library. —E.G.
34. Play The Wizard of Oz and Pink Floyd's Dark Side Moon at the same time.
You don't need to live in a college dorm room to enjoy this one. If you play the Pink Floyd album Dark Side of the Moon over The Wizard of Oz, the two very different pieces of media appear to sync up in an uncanny way. Clare Torry's wailing in "The Great Gig in the Sky" scores the tornado scene; the cash register bell at the start of "Money" signals the movie's switch to color; and "Brain Damage" introduces the Scarecrow. According to the members of Pink Floyd, the "Dark Side of the Rainbow" phenomenon wasn't intentional—but that doesn't make it any less interesting to watch. —M.D.
35. Organize everything.
Now that we're all spending more time at home, being more comfortable in our spaces is essential. Consider channeling this at-home time into things you might have been putting off, like sorting through (and throwing out) old make-up, reorganizing cabinets, decluttering drawers, and putting clothes from your closet into keep/donate piles. Trust us, you'll feel accomplished and happy afterward. Check out this list of eco-friendly organization ideas from Curbed, which has some great tips for how to organize without buying a bunch of new containers. —E.M.
36. Make a vision board.
Get crafty and clear out your stack of decades-old magazines by making a vision board. You can be as creative as you want—just cut out images and words that fit your theme, and start dreaming about life after quarantine. —K.W.
37. Complete a paint-by-numbers kit.
Paint-by-numbers kits give you the satisfaction of creating an objet d'art without the need to compose a scene, draw well, or be artistically inclined in any way. All it takes is the ability to paint within the lines and to match colors to numbers—which is about all my quarantine-strained brain can handle right now. —K.L.
38. Take a free online class.
From graphic design to history, there’s pretty much an online class for anything you could want to learn. And if you find yourself with some free time, you have a chance to study a new subject. If you’re looking for some ideas, here’s a list of 40 classes offered by Ivy League schools you can take online for no charge. —K.R.
39. Go on a Wikipedia rabbit hole trip.
The best way to learn is by exploring, and in the age of quarantine, one of the easiest ways to do this is by heading down a Wikipedia rabbit hole. Just pick a page to start on—it could be for a president, a city, a movie—and keep clicking on the links within to journey farther into the depths of what the online encyclopedia has to offer. For example, it only takes four random clicks to get from Woodrow Wilson to Tony the Tiger, where you'll learn the sugary cereal mascot has a son named Tony Jr., a daughter named Antoinette, and a wife named Mrs. Tony. And just like that, you're already getting better at trivia. —J.S.
40. Read a book that you were supposed to read in school (but never actually read).
If you wrote a lofty, 10-page analysis of Gabriel García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera in 12th grade without having read the book and have spent the last eight years feeling guilty, now’s your chance to do penance. I can’t vouch for how good that book is (for what might be obvious reasons), but I can speak to F. Scott’s Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. They’re good! —E.G.
41. Do some digital decluttering, too.
Decluttering isn't just for physical spaces. After you've cleaned out your email, consider the other digital projects you might have been putting off, like organizing years' worth of photos on your external hard drive—which will also serve as a nice trip down memory lane—or deleting old files you no longer need. —E.M.
42. Try your hand at backyard wildlife photography.
Taking pictures is a great way to get to know your local wildlife. Hunker down near a window or in a quiet spot in your yard, or head to a park (if it’s safe and allowed in your area). Make sure you don’t get too close to the critters or disturb them in any way. If you’d like to take close-up glamour shots of your animal models, use a camera with a zoom lens or pop a telephoto lens onto your phone. You can find other suggestions for backyard naturalist gear here. —K.W.
43. Do aerobics routines to 1980s workout videos.
While many of us have the time to exercise, finding the energy to do it isn't so easy. So why not have a little fun while getting your daily dose of cardio and go old-school with your workout? Several versions of Jane Fonda's workout videos are available for rent (or purchase) on Amazon Prime. Legwarmers and leotard not included. —J.M.W.
44. Watch a really bad sequel to a really good movie.
Skipping Jaws: The Revenge when it came out in 1987 was a shrewd move; the film, fourth in the Jaws franchise, has a big ol’ goose egg for its Rotten Tomatoes critics’ score, and the Los Angeles Times called it “dumb beyond belief.” Now, however, seems like an opportune time to go fishing in the sea of follow-up flops. Other ideas include 2002’s American Psycho 2, starring Mila Kunis; 2001’s Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles (about which the Chicago Sun-Times wrote “I’ve seen audits that were more thrilling”); and 1988’s Caddyshack II. —E.G
45. Watch reviews of military MREs on YouTube.
There’s a hypnotic quality to the dulcet tones of YouTuber Steve Thomas as he eats and reviews military MREs ("Meal, Ready to Eat" for you civilians) on his channel, Steve1989MREinfo. Whether he’s cracking open a box of Lithuanian survival rations from 2018, plunging into some fried ham left over from the Vietnam War, or testing out Civil War-era hardtack, Thomas carefully considers each government-issued forkful as if a James Beard Award were on the line. You could lose hours binging on his seemingly endless collection of reviews, and you wouldn't be alone—his videos regularly rack up more than 1 million views each. —J.S.
46. Do a grade school multiplication worksheet.
Sure, you might have been able to scrawl down the answers to “12 x 7,” “9 x 8,” and all the rest of your multiplication timetables without hesitating for even a second, but how quickly can you do it now? Here’s a printable sheet [PDF] of 100 multiplication questions with numbers two through 12 (zeroes and ones are too easy, even for a has-been), and you can pass the time with tons of other math worksheets on Math-Drills.com. —E.G.
47. Learn a few foreign phrases and slang for everyday conversation.
Whether you're dropping British slang, subbing in French phrases, or delivering devastating German insults, popping foreign phrases is one surefire way to spice up everyday conversation. As a bonus, you can try using some Victorian slang terms if you've got the morbs. —E.M.
48. Teach yourself a different alphabet.
Maybe you don't have time to teach yourself German or Arabic while you juggle working from home and other responsibilities. You can still learn an alphabet with non-Latin characters—like Cyrillic, Greek, or Cherokee—in less time while gaining a rudimentary understanding of a new language. —K.L.
49. Watch the first and/or last episode of a TV show you've never seen and had no intention of ever watching.
Face it: The chances of you dedicating 100 hours of your adult life to watching the Highlander TV series in its entirety are pretty slim—no matter how much you (usually) respect the opinions of that colleague who just so happens to be a super-fan. But as a consumer of pop culture, it's always interesting to experience even just a taste of any TV series that has managed to maintain any sort of fandom decades after it went off the air (and long after ponytails on dudes and leather dusters stopped being attractive accessories). While watching the pilot and finale of any series is certainly going to leave a lot of missing information in between, at least you'll know how it begins and ends. And who knows—maybe the cheesy appeal of early '90s special effects will convince you that those 100 hours might be worth the investment after all. —J.M.W.
50. Learn to identify Snap, Crackle, and Pop on a box of Rice Krispies.
There’s no faster way to lose credibility at the breakfast table than to not be able to name Snap, Crackle, and Pop, the famous mascots on boxes of Rice Krispies. While you’re at it, learn the names of other popular cereal characters. (The bird on the Cocoa Puffs box is named Sonny.) —J.R.